Blackhawks draft defenseman Henri Jokiharju

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Defenseman Henri Jokiharju after being selected at #29 by Blackhawks - by Scott King

by Scott King

The Blackhawks had already made the biggest splash in the hockey world on Friday morning well before the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago even started.

Several hours before the first round of the first ever Windy City NHL Draft began, the Hawks traded three-time Stanley Cup champion Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Phoenix Coyotes for defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin.

Moments later Chicago traded 2016 rookie of the year Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets for former Hawk and two-time Stanley Cup champ Brandon Saad. Chicago also got goaltender Anton Forsberg and a fifth-round draft pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, but also gave up forward Tyler Motte and the Hawks’ sixth round (170th overall) in 2017 in the deal.

Even though the Hawks didn’t have a first round pick the last two years, it would be hard for them to do anything of consequence after what transpired earlier in the day.

Their first pick in Friday’s draft was slated to be number 26 in the first round. The team chose to make the first trade of the draft that they were hosting instead. Chicago traded the number 26 pick to Dallas for the number 29 and number 70 overall picks.

At 29, Blackhawks VP and GM Stan Bowman brought out Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to make the pick in front of a howling United Center crowd.

Kane and Toews enchanted the hometown audience with a mild Abbott and Costello routine. “Just remember I went two spots higher than Johnny, Kane said before announcing the pick.”

Once the laughs died down, the Hawks selected Finnish defenseman Henri Jokiharju. “It’s an amazing feeling,” said the 18-year-old smiling ear-to-ear after being selected. “Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane call my name and [there] can’t be a better feeling. Those guys are my idols.”

The blueliner registered 48 points in 71 games with the Portland Winterhawks (WHL) last season.

Jokiharju certainly sold himself when describing his game to the media after he was picked.

“I’m a real good skater and I play with confidence. I’m a puck moving [defenseman], making good passes, simple passes [that] help other players. I love playing [on] the power play and on the PK too. I want to be a big part of the team.”

#1 Stunna: 18-year-old center Nico Hischier was the number one overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft.

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